Dr. Linda Childers Hon

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1 This is a Gold Standard paper of the Commission on Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation Guidelines for Measuring Relationships in Public Relations by Dr. Linda Childers Hon University of Florida and Dr. James E. Grunig University of Maryland Published by the Institute for Public Relations November 1999 Guidelines for Measuring Relationships in Public Relations By Dr. Linda Childers Hon and Dr. James E. Grunig Copyright 1999, Institute for Public Relations

2 This Booklet Was Prepared and Written By Dr. Linda Childers Hon, University of Florida and Dr. James E. Grunig, University of Maryland Others Who Contributed To This Document Included: Forrest W. Anderson Burson-Marsteller Dr. Glen M. Broom San Diego State University Jack Felton Institute for Public Relations John Gilfeather Roper Starch Worldwide Patrick Jackson Jackson, Jackson & Wagner Bruce C. Jeffries-Fox AT&T Dr. Walter K. Lindenmann Ketchum Public Relations Sunshine Janda Overkamp Council on Foundations ii

3 CONTENTS Page FOREWORD 1 OVERVIEW 2 DETAILED DISCUSSION 6 The Value of Public Relations Is In Relationships 7 Stage 1: With Whom Does An Organization Need Relationships? 12 Stage 2: Strategies For Maintaining Relationships 13 Stage 3: Outcomes of Relationships 18 Relationship Outcomes in Public Relations Practice 22 Measuring Outcomes of Relationships 25 Where Do We Go From Here? 38 APPENDIX Reliability of Indices For Six Indicators of Relationships 40 iii

4 FOREWORD This is the third in a series of booklets that have been published by the Institute for Public Relations to give guidelines and suggestions on how best to measure public relations effectiveness. In 1997, the Institute published a 24-page booklet, Guidelines and Standards for Measuring and Evaluating PR Effectiveness, as a first attempt to begin to find a uniform ruler that everyone in the public relations industry might use when it comes to measuring specific PR programs, activities, and events. Early in 1999, following the formation by the Institute of a special U.S. Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation, a second booklet was published, entitled: Guidelines For Setting Measurable PR Objectives. That particular booklet offered tips, along with selected examples, of how those in the industry might begin to set measurable objectives for their various PR programs and activities. Now, we move into a brand new area, with the publication of this latest guidebook. Since a growing number of PR practitioners see their prime role to be that of building effective relationships with various constituencies, members of the IPR Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation felt it important to prepare and issue a set of guidelines for beginning to measure relationships in public relations. We believe that all three of these guidebooks will prove useful to you as working documents you can rely on when it comes to assessing the overall value of what it is you are seeking to accomplish through your public relations programs and activities. Jack Felton President and CEO Institute for Public Relations 1

5 OVERVIEW Why is it important to measure relationships in public relations? Basically, because a growing number of public relations practitioners and scholars have come to believe that the fundamental goal of public relations is to build and then enhance on-going or long-term relationships with an organization s key constituencies. Tools and techniques for measuring and evaluating the relatively short-term outputs and outcomes of specific public relations programs, events and campaigns have existed for quite a number of years. But up until now, measuring the success or failure of longterm relationships stemming, in part from public relations efforts, have not existed. Outputs are usually the immediate results of a particular PR program or activity. More often than not, they represent what is readily apparent to the eye. They measure how well an organization presents itself to others, the amount of attention or exposure that the organization receives. Outcomes measure whether target audience groups actually received the messages directed at them paid attention to them understood the messages and retained those messages in any shape or form. They also measure whether the communications materials and messages that were disseminated have resulted in any opinion, attitude and/or behavior changes on the part of those targeted publics to whom the messages were directed. As important as it can be for an organization to measure PR outputs and outcomes, it is even more important for an organization to measure relationships. This is because for most organizations measuring outputs and outcomes can only give information about the effectiveness of a particular or specific PR program or event that has been undertaken. In order to answer the much broader question -- How can PR practitioners begin to pinpoint and document for senior management the overall value of public relations to the organization as a whole? -- different tools and techniques are needed. During the past few years, a number of academicians have been seeking ways of more effectively determining the overall value of PR, not only to organizations in particular, but also to society in general. Two academicians who have played a leading role in this area have been Dr. Linda Childers Hon of the University of Florida and Dr. James E. Grunig of the University of Maryland. Their efforts to date in seeking to develop a reliable PR Relationship Measurement Scale are documented in the pages that follow. They have found through their research that the outcomes of an organization s longerterm relationships with key constituencies can best be measured by focusing on six very precise elements or components of the relationships that exist. These are: 2

6 Control Mutuality -- The degree to which parties agree on who has the rightful power to influence one another. Although some imbalance is natural, stable relationships require that organizations and publics each have some control over the other. Trust -- One party s level of confidence in and willingness to open oneself to the other party. There are three dimensions to trust: integrity: the belief that an organization is fair and just dependability: the belief that an organization will do what it says it will do and, competence: the belief that an organization has the ability to do what it says it will do. Satisfaction -- The extent to which each party feels favorably toward the other because positive expectations about the relationship are reinforced. A satisfying relationship is one in which the benefits outweigh the costs. Commitment -- The extent to which each party believes and feels that the relationship is worth spending energy to maintain and promote. Two dimensions of commitment are continuance commitment, which refers to a certain line of action, and affective commitment, which is an emotional orientation. Exchange Relationship -- In an exchange relationship, one party gives benefits to the other only because the other has provided benefits in the past or is expected to do so in the future. Communal Relationship -- In a communal relationship, both parties provide benefits to the other because they are concerned for the welfare of the other -- even when they get nothing in return. For most public relations activities, developing communal relationships with key constituencies is much more important to achieve than would be developing exchange relationships. To measure the outcomes of an organization s relationship with key constituencies focusing on these six elements, Hon and Grunig suggest administering a questionnaire form that includes a series of agree/disagree statements pertaining to the relationship. Respondents are asked to use a 1-to-9 scale to indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree that each item listed describes their relationship with that particular organization. A complete list of the statements appears starting on Page 28. Here is a shortened list of some of the items that have been used by the academicians that have been found to be valid measures of relationship outcomes: 3

7 Control Mutuality 1. This organization and people like me are attentive to what each other say. 2. This organization believes the opinions of people like me are legitimate. 3. In dealing with people like me, this organization has a tendency to throw its weight around. (Reversed) 4. This organization really listens to what people like me have to say. 5. The management of this organization gives people like me enough say in the decision-making process. Trust 1. This organization treats people like me fairly and justly. 2. Whenever this organization makes an important decision, I know it will be concerned about people like me. 3. This organization can be relied on to keep its promises. 4. I believe that this organization takes the opinions of people like me into account when making decisions. 5. I feel very confident about this organization s skills. 6. This organization has the ability to accomplish what it says it will do. Commitment 1. I feel that this organization is trying to maintain a long-term commitment to people like me. 2. I can see that this organization wants to maintain a relationship with people like me. 3. There is a long-lasting bond between this organization and people like me. 4. Compared to other organizations, I value my relationship with this organization more. 5. I would rather work together with this organization than not. Satisfaction 1. I am happy with this organization. 2. Both the organization and people like me benefit from the relationship. 3. Most people like me are happy in their interactions with this organization. 4. Generally speaking, I am pleased with the relationship this organization has established with people like me. 5. Most people enjoy dealing with this organization. 4

8 Exchange Relationships 1. Whenever this organization gives or offers something to people like me, it generally expects something in return. 2. Even though people like me have had a relationship with this organization for a long time, it still expects something in return whenever it offers us a favor. 3. This organization will compromise with people like me when it knows that it will gain something. 4. This organization takes care of people who are likely to reward the organization. Communal Relationships 1. This organization does not especially enjoy giving others aid. (Reversed) 2. This organization is very concerned about the welfare of people like me. 3. I feel that this organization takes advantage of people who are vulnerable. (Reversed) 4. I think that this organization succeeds by stepping on other people. (Reversed) 5. This organization helps people like me without expecting anything in return. Once the questionnaire has been filled out, the negative indicators of each concept should be reversed, and the answers to all of the items measuring each relationship outcome should be averaged, so that overall mean scores can be calculated. Testing of the scales shows them to be good measures of perceptions of relationships, strong enough to be used in evaluating relationships. In addition to using the items to measure perceptions of representatives of key constituent groups toward given organizations, it also could be beneficial to administer the questions to managers of the organizations under study, to obtain their perceptions regarding a relationship with a specific public. When perceptions of relationships are measured from both sides, one can begin to measure gaps in the way management and publics perceive the relationship. Such a gap analysis will suggest strategies for maintaining or repairing relationships. Dr. Walter K. Lindenmann, Chair, IPR Commission On PR Measurement and Evaluation 5

9 DETAILED DISCUSSION Many practitioners and scholars believe that the fundamental goal of public relations is building relationships with an organization s key constituencies. Yet, most public relations evaluation has focused on measuring the outputs and outcomes of public relations programs, not on measuring relationships. From this point forward, this paper discusses what the term relationship means to public relations, how relationships can be maintained with publics, and how public relationships can be measured. Information comes from professional and academic literature about relationships and public relations. Also included are the results from a survey about public relationships conducted by graduate students in public relations at the University of Maryland under the supervision of Professor James E. Grunig. And, throughout this paper, quotations from public relations practitioners help illustrate main points. These comments come from interviews done by students in a graduate course in public relations taught by Associate Professor Linda Childers Hon at the University of Florida. Why are successful relationships important to public relations? For at least 25 years, public relations scholars have asked two fundamental questions: "How do you measure the effects of public relations?" and "How do you show the value of public relations to an organization and to society?" Communication researchers have known how to measure several effects of public relations for many years. Nevertheless, they know how to evaluate the effects of public relations techniques and programs (the first question above) better than they know how to measure the value of public relations to an organization and to society (the second question). In 1997, The Institute for Public Relations issued a paper summarizing the state of knowledge on the measurement and evaluation of public relations. 1 The report described several ways of measuring both processes and outcomes of public relations efforts. Measures of processes indicate whether messages are being sent, placed, or attended to-- such as counts of press releases or publications issued, media placement and monitoring, and exposure to or readership of the messages. By themselves, however, process indicators tell us little about the effects of public relations unless we can demonstrate that the processes have effects on the outcomes of programs, such as changes in the cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors of publics--what people think, feel, and do. The first paper on measurement in public relations described the state-of-the art for measuring public relations processes as well as the short-term effects of public relations programs on one or more publics of an organization. This paper picks up where the previous one left off by discussing the long-term effects of public relations programs on organizational effectiveness and by extending the discussion to effects of public relations on management as well as on publics. 1 Lindenmann, W. K. (1997). Guidelines and Standards For Measuring and Evaluating PR Effectiveness, Institute for Public Relations, Gainesville, FL. 6

10 Measures of the effects of public relations techniques and programs indicate whether they have achieved their communication objectives, but they fall short of being able to measure the value of PR to an organization or to society. It's possible, for example, that a public relations program could be based on poor strategic thinking and change the cognitions, attitudes, and behavior of a public that has little impact on the organization. Also, if public relations people function as strategic counselors to management, then we also need to measure the effects of public relations on management as well as its effects on publics. Current evaluative measures also tell us mostly about short-term outcomes of public relations programs but little about long-term effects on relationships between organizations and their publics. This paper focuses most of its attention on relationship outcomes and how to measure them. However, it is important to recognize that organizations do not need relationships with all publics and to recognize that not all public relations strategies, programs, or campaigns are equally effective in building relationships. Therefore, this paper also reviews two stages of the public relations process that precede relationship outcomes: 1) Environmental scanning to determine the publics with which an organization needs relationships and 2) Public relations processes that are most effective in maintaining relationships with strategic publics. The Value of Public Relations is in Relationships In the research project on Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management conducted for the IABC Research Foundation, researchers searched the literature on organizational effectiveness for ideas that could explain the value of public relations. 2 They believed it was necessary to understand what it means for an organization to be effective before they could explain how public relations makes it more effective. The search of the literature on organizational effectiveness revealed that effective organizations achieve their goals. However, achieving organizational goals is not a complete answer to the question of what makes an organization effective. Not everyone 2 See Grunig, L. A., Grunig, J. E., & Ehling, W. P. (1992). What Is An Effective Organization? in J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence In Public Relations and Communication Management (pp ). Hillsdale, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 7

11 in or around an organization agrees on what goals are important: There is much conflict within the organization and with outside constituencies over the choice of goals. Over the long term, however, the literature showed that effective organizations are able to achieve their goals because they choose goals that are valued both by management and by strategic constituencies both inside and outside the organization. When organizations choose such goals, they minimize efforts of publics to interfere with organizational decisions and maximize support from publics. Effective organizations choose and achieve appropriate goals because they develop relationships with their constituencies, which public relations practitioners typically call publics. Ineffective organizations cannot achieve their goals, at least in part, because their publics do not support and typically oppose management efforts to achieve what publics consider illegitimate goals. Public opposition to management goals and decisions frequently results in issues and crises. As a result, the process of developing and maintaining relationships with strategic publics is a crucial component of strategic management, issues management, and crisis management. The process of incorporating the goals, interests, and concerns of publics into the strategic decision processes of organizations is never easy, of course, because organizations generally encounter multiple publics with multiple goals. In addition, most management decision-makers believe that they choose goals and make decisions that are best for the organization and that they, rather than publics, know what decisions are best. However, organizations generally make better decisions when they listen to and collaborate with stakeholders before they make final decisions rather than simply trying to persuade them to accept organizational goals after decisions are made. 3 3 Support for the idea that organizations make better decisions when they collaborate with stakeholder publics can be found in the writings of Michael Porter, a specialist on strategic management in the Harvard Business School. Porter's theory of competitive advantage was the first theory of management to demonstrate that firms may gain economic benefits from social pressures and the first to explain the economic value of collaborating with stakeholders. For example, Porter found that multinational corporations with strong competitors in their home country were better able to compete in other countries because of the pressure to excel at home (Porter, M. E. [1994]. Toward a Dynamic Theory of Strategy, in R. P. Rumelt, D. E. Schendel, & D. J. Teece, [Eds.], Fundamental Issues In Strategy: A Research Agenda. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, p. 451). Likewise, he found that government regulation, traditionally seen by corporate managers as an intrusion on their decision-making, can stimulate changes in organizational behavior that provide a competitive advantage. In Porter s words, standards for product performance, product safety, and environmental impact contribute to creating and upgrading competitive advantage. They pressure firms to improve quality, upgrade technology, and provide features in areas of important customer (and social) concern. (Porter, M. E. [1990]. The Competitive Advantage of Nations. London: MacMillan, p. 647). Porter's idea that an organization can gain competitive advantage from successful relationships with competitors and governments can be extended to relationships with other stakeholder publics. For example, a corporation that successfully solves its environmental problems, usually when 8

12 As a result, public relations practitioners need special skills to negotiate relationships with management and with multiple publics because maintaining relationships with one public may make it difficult to maintain a relationship with another public with competing goals. And, management may be reluctant to balance the interests of publics with what it perceives to be the interests of the organization. Public relations makes an organization more effective, therefore, when it identifies the most strategic publics as part of strategic management processes and conducts communication programs to develop and maintain effective long-term relationships between management and those publics. As a result, we should be able to determine the value of public relations by measuring the quality of relationships with strategic publics. And, we should be able to extend our ability to evaluate communication programs by measuring the effects of these programs and correlating them with relationship indicators. What contribution does achieving short-term communication objectives make to the building of long-term relationships? Thus far in our discussion, we have said that strategic public relations consists of 1) Identifying the most strategic publics with which an organization needs to develop a relationship; 2) Planning, implementing, and evaluating communication programs to build relationships with these publics, and 3) Measuring and evaluating the long-term relationships between the organization and these strategic publics. We also have said that our knowledge of how to evaluate public relations largely is limited to the second stage: We know how to determine the effects of specific communication programs on the cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors of publics in the short-term. There is a link, however, between short- and long-term outcomes of public relations. The IABC Excellence study provided evidence that there is a correlation between achieving short-term communication effects and maintaining quality long-term relationships. 4 The research team classified public relations departments as excellent when the CEOs of their client organizations assigned a high value to the contribution of the department. The research also showed that these departments practiced strategic pressured by environmental activists, will gain an advantage in the resulting positive relationships with stockholders, consumers, employees, government, and communities that have the ability to support or constrain that corporation. Likewise, a government agency that responds well to pressures from its constituents will be more likely to gain support from those publics as it competes for limited public funding. 4 Dozier, D. M. with Grunig, L. A., & Grunig, J. E. (1995). Manager s Guide to Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. See Chapter 16, Communication excellence makes a difference. 9

13 public relations and contributed to the overall management of their organizations. The CEOs said they valued these departments because of their ability to maintain relationships with key stakeholders. The senior communicators in the excellent departments also reported more often than those in less-excellent departments that their programs had change-of-relationship effects such as changes in behavior of a public, greater cooperation between the organization and public, and the development of a stable long-term relationship. They also reported more frequent conflict avoidance effects, such as avoiding litigation, fewer complaints from publics, and less interference by government. At the same time, the excellent communicators more often reported that their departments had defined outcome objectives for their short-term programs aimed at the media, employees, community, customers, members, government, and investors. They also reported that their departments engaged in all forms of short-term evaluation more than did the less-excellent communicators especially scientific evaluation but also media placement and seat-of-the-pants evaluation. As a result, the Excellence study provided correlational evidence that public relations departments that set objectives and measure the outcomes of their short-term communication programs also believe that they experience greater success in building long-term relationships with publics. The explanation for this relationship is straightforward: Organizations that communicate effectively with publics develop better relationships because management and publics understand one another and because both are less likely to behave in ways that have negative consequences on the interests of the other. In-depth interviews of the most excellent public relations departments in the Excellence study showed that good communication changes behavior of both management and publics and, therefore, results in good relationships. If public relations managers help management to understand that certain decisions might have adverse consequences on a public, then management might make a different decision and behave in a different way than it might have otherwise. That is a behavioral change by management that should lead to a behavioral change by a public. For example, the public would be more likely to accept a group home in its neighborhood, buy a product that is now more acceptable, or support a downsizing that takes employee interests into account. There also are times when communication helps a public to trust management and to accept a decision that management wanted to make before communication took place. The case studies for the Excellence study also showed that there are many times when good relationships do not lead to changes in behavior immediately. Sometimes, good relationships keep publics from engaging in negative behaviors such as litigation, strikes, protests, or negative publicity. As a result, we have difficulty measuring a behavior that did not occur because of a good relationship. At other times, there may be a long lag between the development of a good relationship and a behavior e.g., when good 10

14 relationships with university students lead to donations of money years later when they have made their fortunes. As a result, public relations professionals need a way to measure relationships as they develop and are maintained rather than waiting to observe the behaviors that may or may not occur as a result of communication programs What is the value of good relationships for public relations and organizations? Research suggests, therefore, that the value of public relations can be determined by measuring the quality of relationships with strategic publics. And, communication programs can be evaluated by measuring their effects and correlating them with the attributes of a good relationship. When public relations helps the organization build relationships with key constituencies, it saves the organization money by reducing the costs of litigation, regulation, legislation, pressure campaigns, boycotts, or lost revenue that result from bad relationships. Public relations also helps the organization make money by cultivating relationships with donors, consumers, shareholders, and legislators who are needed to support organizational goals. Good relationships with employees also increase the likelihood that they will be satisfied with the organization and their jobs, which makes them more likely to support and less likely to interfere with the mission of the organization. What are the attributes of the most successful relationships for public relations? Most public relations evaluation has been one-way, designed to measure the effects of communication on publics. Measuring relationships, however, assumes a two-way communication process with effects on both parties in the relationship. The most productive relationships in the long run are those that benefit both parties in the relationship rather that those designed to benefit the organization only. Public relations theorists have termed these types of relationships symmetrical and asymmetrical, respectively. A director of public affairs for a county government summarized the link between symmetrical public relations and organizational effectiveness: The main strategy is open communication--by being open, in touch with your various publics, determining what their needs and wants are, how they can best be achieved, and how you can all work together toward common goals. And, I think that s key with any group and organization that you bring together. That s what 11

15 you build trust on, that s what you build relationships on, and that s what you accomplish goals with. Stage 1: With Whom Does an Organization Need Relationships? The first expertise that a public relations professional needs consists of knowledge and research tools to identify the strategic publics with whom an organization should have relationships. Theories of the strategic management of public relations and of the nature of publics provide this knowledge needed for environmental scanning. Research techniques also are available that public relations professionals can use in environmental scanning. Why do public relationships form? Relationships form because one party has consequences on another party. Organizations have a public relations problem or opportunity and a reason to develop a public relations program when management decisions have consequences on publics inside or outside of the organization or when the behavior of these publics has consequences on the success with which an organizational decision can be implemented. These relationships can be called strategic (or necessary) relationships. What are the different forms of relationships important to public relations? In public relations, the most obvious example of a strategic relationship occurs when an organization affects a public or a public affects an organization. But, other forms of relationships also occur. Organizations typically face multiple publics with different interests and conflicting goals. These publics often organize into coalitions and organizations enter into similar coalitions. Sometimes, an organization and a public form a coalition to affect another organization. Or, an organization and a public form a coalition to affect another public. Still another possibility is when an organization affects another organization-public coalition. And, finally, multiple organizations can affect multiple publics. 12

16 What are the characteristics of public relationships? All of these different forms of relationships suggest that relationships in public relations can be two-party or multiple party. And, all of these relationships are situational. That is, any of these relationships can come and go and change as situations change. Finally, these relationships are behavioral because they depend on how the parties in the relationship behave toward one another. Organizations do not have an image or identity separate from their behavior and the behavior of publics toward them. Instead, organizations have a reputation that essentially consists of the organizational behaviors that publics remember. How can public relations practitioners measure forms of relationships important to their organization? All of the different forms of relationships listed above can be identified through formal and informal methods of environmental scanning. Scanning refers to any research technique public relations practitioners use to identify the strategic publics their organization needs to build relationships with. This paper does not explore research methods for environmental scanning in depth because it emphasizes characteristics and measurements of relationship outcomes. It is important to recognize, however, that good environmental scanning is a necessary condition for developing good relationships with publics. Stage 2: Strategies for Maintaining Relationships Most of the knowledge that public relations professionals possess has something to do with how to communicate with publics in order to maintain a relationship with those publics. Not all strategies for maintaining relationships are equally effective, however. Therefore, we must recognize that not all public relations strategies, techniques, and programs are equally likely to produce relationship outcomes. Public relations researchers have identified and classified the maintenance strategies that research has shown to be most effective. It is beyond the scope of this paper to describe all of this literature. In this section, however, we provide a brief overview of this research to suggest when relationship outcomes are most likely to occur. We also suggest some process indicators of these maintenance strategies that professionals can use to get information on when a relationship process is going well. 13

17 How are relationships maintained? Research on interpersonal relationships 5 and conflict resolution 6 suggests several strategies that organizations can use to maintain relationships with strategic constituencies. All of the concepts from research on interpersonal relationships can be applied to maintaining symmetrical public relationships, or those that benefit both the organization and publics: Access members of publics or opinion leaders provide access to public relations people. Public relations representatives or senior managers provide representatives of publics similar access to organizational decision-making processes. Either party will answer telephone calls or read letters or messages from the other. Either party is willing to go to the other when they have complaints or queries, rather than taking negative reactions to third parties. Positivity anything the organization or public does to make the relationship more enjoyable for the parties involved. An application of this strategy is used by an agency CEO: We want to be a resource to every one of our publics in some way, shape, or form. It s in the way we ve set up our web site, the way we ve set up everything we do as far as our newsletter, as far as the service we provide, as far as the way we interact with all of these publics whether they re the media or a client or a not-for-profit organization or whatever we want them to look at [name of agency] as a resource, as something that has value to their organization in some way, shape, or form. So, what we try to do is operate on the principle of providing something that is of self-interest to every one of our clients so there is a reason why they should care about us. Openness--of thoughts and feelings among parties involved. An associate vice president of university relations at a public university provided an example: 5 Grunig, J. E., & Huang, Y. H. (2000). From Organizational Effectiveness to Relationship Indicators: Antecedents of Relationships, Public Relations Strategies, and Relationship Outcomes. In John A. Ledingham and Steve D. Bruning (Eds.), Public Relations As Relationship Management: A Relational Approach to the Study and Practice of Public Relations (pp ). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 6 Plowman, K.D. (1995). Congruence Between Public Relations and Conflict Resolution: Negotiating in the Organization. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Maryland, College Park. 14

18 Much of what public relations in a public university is about is providing disclosure saying, Here is what we are doing with your money. Here is what s going on. This is a public institution. Here s what we do. Assurances--attempts by parties in the relationship to assure the other parties that they and their concerns are legitimate. This strategy also might involve attempts by the parties in the relationship to demonstrate they are committed to maintaining the relationship. A director of external relations for a university agricultural extension office explained how his organization demonstrates to its publics that their needs are legitimate: The whole land grant system is based on the needs of people. We re not a bunch of bureaucrats or what some folks would call ivory-tower, pointy-headed professors who are sitting in [name of city] and handing down things that we think are important to people. Our programs are developed truly along the needs of people.that s the relationship. People tell us what they need and we try to deliver that in the form that they want. Networking--organizations building networks or coalitions with the same groups that their publics do, such as environmentalists, unions, or community groups. A public relations director at a mid-sized agency discussed an example of this strategy used with one of her firm s accounts, a project to increase recycling efforts: We tapped into a group that was just emerging in East Boston. It s the Community Enhancement Coalition. They re really directed at making things better in the community. They have an anti-litter campaign that they re going to roll out in the spring. So, it was nice to tap into people who are ready activists. Sharing of tasks--organizations and publics sharing in solving joint or separate problems. Examples of such tasks are managing community issues, providing employment, making a profit, and staying in business, which are in the interest of either the organization, the public, or both. This strategy was described by a director of public relations at a regional medical center: In the early 1990s, the [name of ] county commission put together a task force, which found that the problem in indigent care is that there is no primary episodic care for patients; they end up in the emergency room. So, in cooperation with the county commission and the hospital across the street, we put together Community Health Services, which is an episodic care center for people with limited income. And that ties to an organization called We Care, which is [made up of] the doctors so that the people at CHS if it s beyond their scope to take out a gall 15

19 bladder, there is a coordinator who hooks up with a surgeon who will take out the gallbladder at no charge. Strategies for maintaining relationships that deal with conflict resolution can be grouped into three categories: Integrative. These approaches are symmetrical because all parties in a relationship benefit by searching out common or complementary interests and solving problems together through open discussion and joint decision-making. The goal is a win-win solution that values the integrity of a long-term relationship between an organization and its publics. A director of public affairs for a county government discussed this focus for communicating with publics: An important point is always the win-win. You may have desired outcomes, and your needs and my needs may be a little bit different, but we can still work together to achieve the outcome. Distributive. These strategies are asymmetrical because one party benefits at the expense of another by seeking to maximize gains and minimize losses within a win-lose or self-gain perspective. Tactics include trying to control through domination, argument, insistence on a position, or showing anger. Other forcing strategies are faulting the other party, hostile questioning, presumptive attribution, demands, or threats. Distributive strategies impose one s position onto that of an adversary without concern for the adversary s position. Dual Concern. These strategies have particular relevance for public relations because they take into consideration the dual role of balancing the interests of publics with the interests of the organization. These strategies also can be called mixed-motive or collaborative advocacy. Some dual concern strategies are asymmetrical because they emphasize the organization s interest over the public or vice versa and will not be effective in developing and maintaining the most positive relationships in the long term: Contending. The organization tries to convince the public to accept its position. Avoiding. The organization leaves the conflict either physically or psychologically. Accommodating. The organization yields, at least in part, on its position and lowers its aspirations. 16

20 Compromising. The organization meets the public part way between its preferred positions, but neither is completely satisfied with the outcome. Several other dual concern strategies are symmetrical and are the most effective at building and maintaining a relationship in the long term: Cooperating. Both the organization and the public work together to reconcile their interests and to reach a mutually beneficial relationship. Being unconditionally constructive. The organization does whatever it thinks is best for the relationship, even if it means giving up some of its positions and even if the public does not reciprocate. Saying win-win or no deal. If the organization and public cannot find a solution that benefits both, they agree to disagree no deal. A strategy of no deal is symmetrical because it leaves open the potential to reach a win-win solution at a later date. Other research 7 in public relations, which has focused on development or institutional advancement, has presented several relationship maintenance strategies as a final but missing step in popular formulas for describing the public relations process, such as RACE or ROPE. These strategies collectively are called stewardship and recognize the strategic value of previously established relationships to future public relations efforts. Stewardship has four elements: Reciprocity. The organization demonstrates its gratitude for supportive beliefs and behaviors. Responsibility. The organization acts in a socially responsible manner to those who have supported it. Reporting. The organization meets legal and ethical requirements of accountability. Relationship nurturing. The organization accepts the importance of supportive publics and keeps them central to the organization s consciousness. Providing information and involving publics are key to the organization s work. 7 Kelly, K.S. (1998, June). Stewardship: The Missing Step In The Public Relations Process. Paper presented to the First Annual International, Interdisciplinary Research Conference, Public Relations Society of America Educator Academy, College Park, MD. 17

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